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Fresh, local, delicious

Jan Lefebvre, Freelance writer

9/26/2022 9:47 AM

EDEN VALLEY, Minn. – The first day of school can bring excitement for many students and dread for others, but the school year at Eden Valley-Watkins High School in Eden Valley began with a popular change for most students.

Gone were the familiar half-pint cartons of milk that have been placed on student trays since the 1940s and in was a new dairy dispenser, delivering cold, fresh milk into glasses.

“The first day I asked a few kids if they wanted some milk, and they didn’t really react,” said Jessica Heying, food service manager at the Eden Valley-Watkins School District. “Then I said, ‘It’s fresh,’ and they were all excited and said, ‘Yeah!’”

The milk dispensary was made possible through a grant from Midwest Dairy that local dairy farmers applied for in an effort to bring better, local milk to students in their area.

NexGen Dairy LLC near Eden Valley and Kuechle Dairy near Watkins combined efforts to complete the grant.

Students have access to the dispensary during breakfast and lunch, the same way they did with cartons, only now the milk is fresh from Stony Creek Dairy in Melrose.

Staff at the high school said the milk dispensary was well received by students.

“The kids were super excited about it this (first) week,” said Tyler Warren, teacher and FFA advisor for the high school. “A lot of the positive comments I’ve heard from students is that the milk is a lot better than what the cartons had.”

Around the school, students said good things about the change. Cody Kipf, a junior from Eden Valley, likes the dispenser and the better portions a glass provides.

“We all like it,” Kipf said. “You don’t just get a little carton and two sips and you have to go.”

A number of students commented on how the carton milk sometimes was lumpy or frozen.

“The milk is more consistant than the carton milk,” said Aiden Kuechle, a senior from Eden Valley. “It’s always cold, but it’s not frozen.”

Kuechle said the dispensary might encourage more kids to drink milk.

“It’s a great thing,” he said. “We need to be strong to represent Eden Valley-Watkins well.”

Ryan Wirz, a junior from Watkins, said fresh milk from the dispensary tops that from cartons.

“It’s fresh milk,” Wirz said. “You don’t have to shake it. It just comes out.”

Warren said he likes the aspect of better milk leading to more students drinking the healthy beverage.

“Milk is very nutritious, especially for teenagers who are growing,” he said. “Just to give them access to fresh, cold milk – to increase their access to a healthy local food source – is a good step.”

Besides providing a healthy, local product, there is another benefit that the use of a milk dispenser is creating. Waste reduction during meals at the high school has been significant due to less wasted milk and no cartons now that kids are using glasses. The glasses are washed along with trays and utensils.

“We went from having four big garbage cans each lunch period to one and a half,” Heying said. “It’s huge, and I can see that there is less wasted milk. We could tell that kids were throwing away milk in the carton. You could just tell by lifting the cans. They are drinking all their milk before dumping their cup in. It’s a huge reduction in waste.”

Students are noticing less waste as well.

“Milk is there for people who want to drink it and not given to those who don’t want it,” said Sam Nistler, a senior from Eden Valley. “Then, they don’t just throw it away.”

Heying said she appreciates what less trash and lighter garbage cans means for her staff.

“Not only is it good to see less waste, but it’s also healthier for my staff,” she said. “When you are lifting four of those really heavy garbage cans every day, it gets to be a lot.”

With the milk dispensary bringing better taste, more consumption and less waste, Heying thinks the idea will catch on.

“Litchfield is doing it; they started it last year and it’s going really well,” Heying said. “Maple Lake is going to implement it, but they are waiting for their coolers. They haven’t arrived yet.”

Heyring said fresh milk dispensaries at schools makes good sense, especially at Eden Valley-Watkins High School.

“Afterall, we live in dairy country,” she said.


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